Review by ringlord71
The Nine Circles of Hell
One of my favourite games of all time was God of War, therefore when I got told that Dantes Inferno was a clone of God of War, I was the only one who was excited for it. While a game that clones another game is generally frowned upon, it can still be a great experience if they do it right.
The game plays as you would expect from a hack and slash game, with the player being able to jump, while performing light attacks and heavy attacks. The main weapon of choice for Dante is the Scythe of the Grim Reaper, while he also wields the holy cross, which can be used to scar the skins of the undead. As the character progresses, magic spell are unlocked so Dante can perform them in future battles.
The story takes place around the time of the Crusades, led by King Richard I in his battle against Saladin and the Saracens for their quest for the Holy Land. Dante returns home to Florence to find his father and lover, Beatrice, murdered in a brutal fashion. As he arrives, Lucifer drags her into hell, and it is this that forms the basis of the story. It is a simple story that pits players in the role of Dante in his quest to rescue his beloved from the evil clutches of the Dark Lord, by traversing the Nine Circles of Hell.
The locales of the Nine Circles that form Hell look impressive. The entire world is predictably dark and gloomy, and paints a disturbing picture of the world in which Dante is in. It is not a pretty world, and it isnt meant to be. The players may feel uncomfortable at times, as scenes play out and dark truths are revealed. Cliff sides are sharp, jagged and extremely dangerous; lava flows constantly to remind the player that death is not far away, and the pawns of the undead are forever battling Dante to prevent him from venturing further into the pits of Hell.
While most of the enemies are mainly forgettable, as the player is too busy slaying through hordes of them, there are some that crop up who are quite memorable, and not for the right reasons. Probably the most memorable enemies are the unbaptized babies; demonic and disfigured babies with blades ripping through their arms are some of the most haunting scenes that the player will experience in a video game.
The bosses also aid in making this game a worthy title. The boss fights are the unique battles that you may have been accustomed to from God of War, but Dantes Inferno still try to do new things with some of them. The player will be battling gigantic foes such as King Minos, dodging his hands as they slam on the ground, while hiding as he tries to blow Dante off the cliff, to a duo of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, with a two-part battle comprising of a standard beat em up style fight, with a series of Quick Time Events to seal the deal.
One of the tropes of God of War was the Quick Time Events, which added the chaos while eliminating the button mashing, and it definitely made things more fun. Unfortunately, in Dantes Inferno, there are only two major points in the game which require Quick Time Events button inputs, including the aforementioned one involving Cleopatra. The thing is both events work very well, so it is a shame that there was not more of it.
Dante can also level up. Accompanied by a morality system, he can level up on two different skill trees: Holy (good) and Unholy (evil). Both skill trees bring with it specific attacks and upgrades to both health and magic bars. And to top it off, they both require souls to venture up into further levels of the skill trees, however not from the same pool of souls. Confused?
As Dante continues on his quest for his beloved Beatrice, he will come across the souls of those who had sinned in their lives. After being told of their crime, it is up to the player to decide whether that soul should be Punished or Absolved. Now, if the soul is punished, then the souls collected from that person will be added to your Unholy skill tree, with the Holy skill tree being fed by souls that were absolved. When Dante beats on the normal enemies, they will drop normal souls which can be used in either skill tree in order to learn new abilities and such.
Because of this choice that the player gets, it gives the player a chance to craft their Dante anyway they want. In a single play through, the game does not offer enough souls to maximize both skill trees, meaning the player does need to choose wisely as to where they put their collected souls.
To accompany the skill trees and magic spells are the use of relics: items that are collected from bosses as well as hidden demon dogs which must be found. The relics each have their own unique features, boosting certain attributes when they are equipped by the player. Overall, there are 37 relics to be found, and only two can be equipped at any one time, meaning that the player will need to decide what the right relic to equip is. And, the relics will automatically level up when they are equipped, further increasing the statistics that they boost. For example, one relic increases magic attacks by 10%, and when it reaches level 2, then it has a 15% increase for magic attacks. Some relics are also specific to a skill tree, for example, meaning that in order to gain a health boost when you absolve enemies, you must reach level 4 of the Holy skill tree. It is this side of the game which gives players the freedom to form Dante how they see fit, preferring magic attacks over physical or preferring the option to negate damage from the enemies.
The problem I had with the relics was that the majority of them seemed to be useless, meaning that generally only two or three relics were favoured and made it through to the end of the game, while the others had never been equipped, which was a shame because there was so much potential there if the relics had made a bit more of a difference in battle.
The music in the game is very forgettable to nearly nonexistent, with no specific tunes coming to mind as they all seem to be very generic, which is unfortunate, because it could have used an orchestral tune of some sort, to play in the background as enemies were getting their ass kicked.
Overall, Dantes Inferno did take a tried and true formula set by God of War, and pasted it into a different world with its own story, and it worked well. The battles with various figures of the undead are fun and very rarely become repetitive. The twin-skill trees resembling both the good side and the bad side was also well done, and the game was very careful not to give you too many souls that you could maximize both skill trees, meaning that choice became a very powerful tool. It was just unfortunate that the relic choices and the magic spells were very limited, that I rarely found a use for them at all in my play through. However, thats the best part about this game: it gives players the choice to explore and create their character anyway they want, equipping themselves with relevant relics to whatever skill tree they decide to favour.
If you are a fan of a good hack and slash, then this game is a worthy title to check out.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Dante's Inferno (AU, 02/04/10)
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